Monday, September 30, 2019

Films That I Saw: September 2019



Autumn has arrived yet it still feels very warm here in Georgia as lately it takes a while for the cold to really come in. Yet, it’s just typical of what has been happening as it is clear that climate change is part of the reason for why the weather here in the South is out of whack at times. I have been paying attention to what Greta Thunberg had to say and she is spot on as I do worry about the future generation to come and go after people such as myself and others for not doing anything. I would want to do something but it’s the powers that be that are just fucking things up like usual as cunts like Boris Johnson and El Pendejo are just being total dumb-fucks. Yet, they’re being called out on it as the latter is right now in trouble as the impeachment process is starting to happen but slowly. I’m really hoping that it goes through but I’m also worried that things could go wrong.

I’ve been slowly trying to get myself back into writing reviews again though there’s times where I just don’t want to as either I spend time watching my nephew or just watch other things as I’m now getting excited for the arrival of All Elite Wrestling’s new TV program on TNT coming this Wednesday. Yet, all of the projects as it relates to the Auteurs series and a piece on the Marvel Cinematic Universe haven’t gone through as I’ve just been in limbo on the former while I haven’t gotten started on the latter. I’m just at a point of not being sure if I want to do it while other attempts to watch films haven’t gone great as there’s times where I’m just starting to lose interest. There’s been movies on my DVR that I haven’t had the time nor the desire to watch as I just delete them not really caring if I can get another chance to see them as it’s just been tough to just not really wanting to do anything.

I think it is part of the process of grief that I’m still going through as I’m also lamenting the fact that everything else that was part of my dad’s generation in the music that he listened to is likely going away the same way other forms of music from the past have gone away. The passing of Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek of the Cars have been shocking as I’m pondering that rock n’ roll is going away but what is to come? I honestly don’t like a lot of the music that’s out there right now and I don’t like what is called rock music these days. I think it’s just me feeling older but also just knowing that I’m still dealing with the fact that my dad is gone.


In the month of September, I saw a total of 28 films in 11 first-timers and 17 re-watches. An improvement of sorts yet I’ve been taking it easy lately as the highlight of the month has definitely been my Blind Spot choice in To Sleep with Anger. Here are my top 5 films that I saw for September 2019:

1. Ad Astra


2. King of New York


3. Aquaman


4. Mysterious Object at Noon


5. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part


Monthly Mini-Reviews

R.E.M. by MTV


R.E.M. will always be one of the greatest bands that ever lived as it’s been nearly eight years since they officially called it a day. This 2014 documentary essentially cultivates many of the band’s footage from MTV, VH1, and other programs to tell their story from their early beginnings to the band’s final years that include MTV News reports. It’s a film that fans of the band must see but it is also a unique take on the band’s story as it’s told mainly through archival footage rather than emphasize on new interviews and such as it’s really unnecessary considering that the band is no more as they’re focused on releasing reissues and other projects.

Strange Wilderness


From Happy Madison comes a film that is proof of how low they’re willing to appeal to the lowest common denominator. You would think that a film that features the likes of Steve Zahn, Jonah Hill, Ernest Borgnine, and Kevin Heffernan of Broken Lizard would be funny yet there’s only a laugh or two and that’s it. It’s a film about a guy trying to save his father’s TV program by doing stupid stunts relating to find animals and things as it’s just boring. It’s lazy in its approach to comedy and it never tries to do anything to make me care about the characters. It’s just awful and I’m sure Sony wondered why the hell did they fund this piece of shit?

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part


The sequel to the 2014 film is definitely a joy to watch in not just in its entertainment value but also in its themes of growing up and identity. Especially as the themes relate to the protagonist Emmett who struggles to adapt to the new situation the other characters are in as he remains upbeat yet when he is trying to save his friends from a mysterious figure. Growing up proves to be much harder than it is as the film definitely manages to be engaging in its themes while it also has some nice musical numbers that include a few songs sung by Tiffany Haddish who proves that she has so much to offer.

Top 10 Re-Watches (that isn’t Lost in Translation):

1. House


2. Big Trouble in Little China


3. Police Story 2


4. Ratatouille


5. Monsoon Wedding


6. Marie Antoinette


7. Me, Myself, & Irene


8. The Kid Stays in the Picture


9. Spielberg


10. Bad Teacher


Well, that is it for September. In October, it’s the annual marathon of sorts of horror, suspense, and films that defy categories as I’ve made a private list of films that I hope to see for the month though it’s likely that it won’t be all of the ones I listed. As for theatrical releases, I’m hoping to see Joker, The Lighthouse, and Jojo Rabbit depending on the time that I have as watching a five-six month old kid is fucking hard work and you’re already tired during the weekends. So until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ad Astra



Directed by James Gray and written by Gray and Ethan Gross, Ad Astra is the story of an astronaut who travels to space to find his long-lost father who is believed to be found but conducting dangerous experiments that would threaten the universe. The film is a space adventure drama that follows a man whose devotion to his work forces him to deal with his father’s absence as he embarks on a journey to find his father and figure what he’s doing. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland. Ad Astra is an astonishing yet riveting film from James Gray.

A series of power surges is threatening the universe as an astronaut is tasked to travel to space all the way to Neptune where the surge is coming from as it is believed that the astronaut’s father is conducting strange experiments on a space station near Neptune. That is the film’s premise as it more plays into this father-son relationship where the son is dealing with trying to live under the shadow of his father’s legacy despite being his own man yet bears some issues as it relates to his father abandoning him and his mother many years ago. The film’s screenplay by James Gray and Ethan Gross is told mainly through astronaut in Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who is a man devoted to his work yet it would cost him his marriage to Eve (Liv Tyler). During a routine repair job at a large space antenna, a power surge emerges and does damage to the antenna with McBride being able to survive as he’s asked by military personnel to go to Neptune where it is believed his father Dr. H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) is alive having been presumed lost during a mission known as the Lima project.

The Lima project that was led by Dr. McBride was meant to see if there’s any form of intelligence life outside of the solar system but something happened and Dr. McBride and his crew hadn’t been heard since until these power surges have emerged prompting Roy to take the mission. Much of the first act involves Roy learning about his father while taking on numerous psychological evaluations to see if he’s capable of carrying on this classified mission where he’s joined by his father’s old friend in Colonel Pruitt (Donald Sutherland) to the moon where they would get a ride to Mars yet they would encounter some trouble involving space pirates with Roy going on the trip via another crew as things become more troubling due to the surge. Arriving on Mars where he meets facility director Helen Lantos (Ruth Negga) who reveals that she met Dr. McBride as a child as her parents were part of his crew and they never returned as well. Yet, Roy becomes more troubled by more psychological evaluations by people on Mars prompting him to sneak on board a rocket to confront his father by himself.

Gray’s direction is definitely ambitious not just in scope and scale but also in its themes of existence and of the universe itself. Set in the near future and shot on location in Santa Clarita, California and on studio soundstages, Gray maintains some intimacy for scenes on Earth that include flashbacks of McBride’s life with Eve but also the disconnect they have as it relates to McBride’s devotion to his work. Through the usage of close-ups and medium shots, Gray does play into the emotional disconnect that McBride carries yet the mission he has to embark on forces him to become emotional where it would take a psychological toll on him eventually once he goes into space. The scenes set in outer space are quite vast with the usage of wide shots that captures the scale of McBride’s journey towards Mars and then Neptune. Notably as the world that Gray creates from the colony on the moon that looks a bit like a mall in its interiors while the underground facility on Mars is far more mysterious including the scene of McBride trying to sneak onto the rocket to Neptune.

Gray’s direction also has this air of mystery during its second act as it relates to the psychological interviews that McBride is doing as well as his attempts to contact his father. It’s a moment in the film that showcases McBride’s own revelations into his mission and what some are not telling him as there are only a few he can really trust. The film’s third act has Gray delve more into elements of surrealism but also isolation into the journey as McBride is forced to deal with himself as the film does bear a lot of visual and thematic elements that relate to other films yet Gray goes for something more emotional. The meeting between McBride and his father is emotional as it does play into their own disconnect with other people but also the fallacies of their own exploration although Dr. McBride does manage to find things that would be important to the universe. In the end, Gray crafts an intoxicating yet haunting film about an astronaut traveling through space to find his long-lost father.

Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema does incredible work with the film’s cinematographer as it is a massive highlight of the film with its usage of low-key filters for some of the interiors and colorful lighting including some scenes on Mars and in some of the spaceships as well as emphasizing on a natural look for some of the exteriors and interiors on Earth as the photography also include additional work from Caleb Deschanel. Editors John Axelrad and Lee Haugen do brilliant work with the editing as it help play into some of the dramatic suspense while being straightforward in some parts while creating some stylish montages in scenes that play into the flashbacks and what McBride is dealing with in his journey. Production designer Kevin Thompson, with set decorator Karen O’Hara and supervising art director Christa Munro, does amazing work with the look of some of the spaceship interiors as well as some of the exteriors of the places and facilities on the moon and on Mars. Costume designer Albert Wolsky does terrific work with the costumes from the military uniforms some of the characters wear on Earth to the spacesuits that astronauts wear.

Hair/makeup designer Nana Fischer does nice work with the look of Dr. McBride when he’s unveiled for the film’s climax along with the beard that McBride grows during his journey. Visual effects supervisor Allen Maris does fantastic work with the visual effects as it play into elements of realism but also in the way some of the scenes in space are presented along with some chilling scenes inside a space station involving baboons. Sound designers Douglas Murray and Gary Rydstrom do superb work with the sound as it play into the sounds of spaceships heard from the insides as well as the sounds of rockets and other gadgets including the low-key sound of the power surges. The film’s music by Max Richter is phenomenal for its ambient-based score that has elements of orchestral bombast and serene synthesizers while music supervisors George Drakoulias and Randall Poster provide additional music from Lorne Balfe and Steffen Thum that add to the serene yet mysterious tone of the film.

The casting by Douglas Aibel is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Sean Blakemore as McBride’s head escort at the moon, Donnie Kershawarz as a ship leader for McBride’s trip to Mars, Loren Dean as the Mars’ ship second-in-command, Kimberly Elise and Bobby Nish as a couple of astronauts for the Mars ship, LisaGay Hamilton and John Finn as a couple of military officials briefing McBride about the situation, Natasha Lyonne as a customs officer on Mars, and John Ortiz as General Rivas who briefs McBride about his father and the Lima project. Liv Tyler is terrific in her small role as McBride’s ex-wife Eve as someone who feels pushed away from her husband while she would get contact from him about his mission as she deals with his emotional troubles. Donald Sutherland is superb as Colonel Pruitt as an old friend of Dr. McBride who accompanies McBride to the moon as he admits to having issues with his father while wanting to help McBride reach his destination.

Ruth Negga is excellent as Helen Lantos as facility director at a base on Mars who reveals some things to McBride about his father as well as what happened to her parents as she would help McBride to board the ship to Neptune knowing that there are many who are trying to stop him from being involved. Tommy Lee Jones is incredible as Dr. H. Clifford McBride as a revered astronaut who led the Lima project that was meant to be something big only for things to go wrong where Jones brings a mysterious quality to his character as someone who is believed to have gone insane. Finally, there’s Brad Pitt in a sensational performance as Major Roy McBride as an astronaut who is tasked to find his long-lost father as he deals with the severity of the mission as it’s a performance where Pitt is restrained for much of the film as he doesn’t do anything to emote until later on as he plays into the flaws of his character as it is one of Pitt’s finest performances.

Ad Astra is a tremendous film from James Gray that feature great performances from Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. Along with its ensemble cast, stunning visuals, immense production design, evocative music score, and themes of exploration and isolation. It’s a film that play into a man’s journey to find his long-lost father while coping with his own faults and the sins of his father that he would have to carry. In the end, Ad Astra is a spectacular film from James Gray.

James Gray Films: Little Odessa - The Yards - We Own the Night - Two Lovers - The Immigrant (2013 film) - The Lost City of Z - The Auteurs #67: James Gray

© thevoid99 2019

Friday, September 27, 2019

2019 Blind Spot Series: To Sleep with Anger



Written and directed by Charles Burnett, To Sleep with Anger is the story of a Southern gentleman who arrives at the home of an old friend in South Central Los Angeles where his presence would shape the foundation and life of his friend and his family. The film is an exploration of a family whose attempt to retain their ideas amidst a simmer of tension within the family that is heightened more by their visitor. Starring Danny Glover, Paul Butler, Mary Alice, Carl Lumbly, Vonetta McGee, Richard Brooks, and Sheryl Lee Ralph. To Sleep with Anger is a haunting yet intoxicating film from Charles Burnett.

The film revolves around a troubled family who are visited by an old family friend from the South whose presence would only add a lot of turmoil and chaos into their lives as well as bring in a taste of the old South. It’s a film that explores a family whose life that is steeped in values and tradition that is being tested through changing times as the added presence of an old friend only stir a pot that is already boiling. Charles Burnett’s screenplay opens with a look into the life of Gideon (Paul Butler) and Suzie (Mary Alice) as they tend to their home with a garden and chicken coop in the backyard while they watch their youngest grandson in Sunny (DeVaughn Nixon) with the help of their eldest granddaughter Rhonda (Reina King). They have two adult sons in Junior (Carl Lumbly) who is married to Pat (Vonetta McGee) who is expecting another child as they’re Rhonda’s parents while the youngest son known as Babe Brother (Richard Brooks) is Sunny’s father and is married to the real estate agent Linda (Sheryl Lee Ralph). Junior is more responsible while Babe Brother is irresponsible as he barely works and often goes out late at night.

The arrival of Harry (Danny Glover) is a surprise to Gideon and Suzie as he arrives traveling from Detroit to Oakland and decided to stop by to visit them. Yet, his visit would also have him bring in ideas of the old South ranging from corn liquor, blues music, and all sorts of things where he would reminisce with Gideon and give Babe Brother advice on money. Many of Gideon and Suzie’s friends would arrive to see Harry with some feeling uneasy about his presence as Linda who admittedly isn’t entirely fond of Babe Brother’s parents is troubled more by Harry and his influence on Babe Brother. Even in the film’s second half where Harry’s presence is already created this sense of discord and atmosphere that becomes far more unsettling as the story progresses towards its third act with Suzie being aware of the darkness that is lurking in Harry.

Burnett’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in terms of the imagery that he presents where it opens with these abstract images of fire where a bowl of plastic fruit is being burned while a man on a chair is also on fire. Shot on location in Los Angeles and in the South Central area, the film does play into this world that is different from the modern world as much of it is shot in the suburbs with some locations around train station tracks and at a small rocky creek. While there are a few wide shots to establish some of the locations as well as create some recurring images such as a kid throwing pigeons around the neighborhood or another boy trying to play the trumpet correctly. Much of Burnett’s direction is emphasized on close-ups and medium shots as it play into multiple characters in a room or scenes that just involves Harry as he is alone either minding his own business or plotting something big. Still, Burnett showcases this culture of old American Southern culture during a party scene as well as a few moments involving Harry and his friends as it harkens back to a moment in time when it was simple but also dangerous.

That air of danger that looms throughout the film is what makes the drama so intriguing and why Babe Brother is attracted to the wild world that Harry offers. It is a world that is unpredictable but also enticing in the kind of rewards that Harry would get and such but also a taste that is definitely disconnected from the modern world. The atmosphere of the film through Burnett’s direction definitely becomes uneasy as it relates to Gideon being unexpectedly ill while the tension involving Babe Brother and Junior starts to increase with the former already becoming less responsible and more troubled following a walk with Harry through the woods. The film’s third act which involves a rainy night and Babe Brother’s rash decision to join Harry back to the South would be the tipping point yet it would be followed by not just revelations about the family but also a world that Gideon and Suzie are forced to confront that play into some of the darkest aspects of their old life. Overall, Burnett crafts an eerie yet rapturous film about a family’s life be shaken by a mysterious visitor.

Cinematographer Walt Lloyd does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward with its emphasis on low-key lighting for some scenes at night including the interior settings while a lot of the daytime scenes are presented in a more natural approach. Editor Nancy Richardson does brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some stylish montages to play into the film’s entrancing tone as it relates to the recurring imagery while also help to play up the air of dramatic suspense. Production designer Penny Barrett and art director Troy Myers do fantastic work with the interior of the homes of Gideon and Suzie along with their chicken coop and garden outside of their home as well as the more modernist interiors of the home that Linda and Babe Brother live in.

Costume designer Gaye Shannon-Burnett does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with Linda wearing more posh-like clothing for her job while Harry often wears a suit and a fedora. The sound work of Patrick M. Griffith is terrific in capturing the atmosphere of some of the locations as well as the sound of the trumpet from the neighborhood boy and the way music is presented on location. The film’s music by Stephen James Taylor is wonderful for its mixture of jazz and blues that play into the dark and simmering tone of the film as well as playing up the dramatic suspense that occurs throughout the film while music supervisor Budd Carr creates a soundtrack that features a mixture of music ranging from blues, gospel, jazz, and R&B from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, and Z.Z. Hill.

The casting by Gail Levin and Lauren Lloyd is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Jimmy Witherspoon as a friend of Gideon and Suzie who sings a blues classic, Wonderful Smith as the local preacher, Greta Brown as the neighbor Virginia, Davis Roberts as a friend of Harry in Okra, Julius Harris as an old friend of Harry in Herman, Sy Richardson as Hattie’s husband Marsh who has a grudge towards Harry, DeVaughn Walter Nixon as Babe Brother and Linda’s young son Sunny who often observes everything around him, Reina King as Junior and Pat’s daughter Rhonda, and Ethel Ayler in a terrific performance as family friend Hattie who had a past with Harry as she is extremely uncomfortable with his presence. Vonetta McGee is fantastic as Pat as Junior’s pregnant wife who is wary of Harry while is often the mediator for everyone involved. Carl Lumbly is superb as Junior as Gideon and Suzie’s eldest and more responsible son who is always there to help as he also tries to get his younger brother to help out more and tell him to grow up. Richard Brooks is excellent as Babe Brother whose real name is Samuel as a young man that is unsure about his role as he often goes out where he is seduced by the tumultuous would that Harry has to offer.

Sheryl Lee Ralph is brilliant as Babe Brother’s wife Linda as a real-estate agent who doesn’t feel like she belongs with Babe Brother’s family yet becomes more disturbed by Babe Brother’s time with Harry who makes her uneasy forcing her to get the help from Babe Brother’s family. Paul Butler and Mary Alice are amazing in their respective roles as Gideon and Suzie as a couple who live in South Central trying to live good lives until Harry’s arrival as the former copes with becoming ill while the latter is a more reserved and quiet person who slowly realizes what kind of trouble that Harry brings. Finally, there’s Danny Glover in a tremendous performance as Harry as this charming yet devilish Southern gentleman who arrives unexpectedly as he brings in traditions and old ideas of the South where he adds to an already troubled situation involving Gideon and his family. Glover’s performance has this air of danger whenever he walks into a room as he’s also a superstitious man that holds on to these old ideas as well as carry a knife that just adds to the level of discomfort he brings into a room as it is an iconic performance from Glover.

To Sleep with Anger is a spectacular film from Charles Burnett that features an incredible performance from Danny Glover. Along with its ensemble cast, chilling music score and soundtrack, themes of family dynamics, tradition, and old ideals. It’s a film that explore a family whose visitor arrives as this embodiment of temptation and evil as well as be a man of ambiguity into his intentions. In the end, To Sleep with Anger is a sensational film from Charles Burnett.

Charles Burnett Films: Killer of Sheep - My Brother's Wedding - (The Glass Shield) – (The Annihilation of Fish) – (Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation)

© thevoid99 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019

King of New York



Directed by Abel Ferrara and written by Nicholas St. John, King of New York is the story of a drug lord who has returned from prison to wipe out all of his competitors and become a modern-day Robin Hood of sorts much to the dismay of his competitors and the NYPD. The film is about a man who saw what his empire has become as he decides to make some changes but also take in some new extremes to get rid of his competitors. Starring Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Victor Argo, Steve Buscemi, and Giancarlo Esposito. King of New York is an evocative and intense film from Abel Ferrara.

The film revolves around a drug lord who has just been released from prison to find that the drug trade and its culture has gotten ugly forcing him to get rid of other dealers and use the money he makes from selling drugs to help the poor in New York City. It’s a simple scenario that definitely recalls the idea of Robin Hood yet the character of Frank White (Christopher Walken) is not really a Robin Hood character. He kills people and he does what he can to ensure that New York City can prosper and give hope to people in the ghettos and other poor areas so they can live good and decent lives. Nicholas St. John’s screenplay opens with White in his prison cell walking out as he is ready to be released while a couple of dealers are being killed with one of them from White’s henchman Jimmy Jump (Laurence Fishburne) doing the job as he hadn’t seen White in years. Though White doesn’t reveal his intentions as it relates to crime lords and such, he does see what New York City has become and realizes that so much can be done without trying to destroy things and act as a businessman by making money off of drugs to fund things such as children’s hospitals and to help the poor.

By getting rid of his competitors including those who have done more harm than good to those in their home turf, White does believe he is trying to do good though some of his actions through murder and intimidation says otherwise. Most notably the NYPD who still hold a grudge towards White as they see him as a criminal as they try to go after his associates. Yet, it is two of the cops in Dennis Gilley (David Caruso) and Thomas Flanigan (Wesley Snipes) who believe that they should take the law into their own hands much to the dismay of Roy Bishop (Victor Argo) who thinks they’re getting themselves into some serious trouble.

Abel Ferrara’s direction is stylish in some of the compositions he creates yet he also would use New York City and its various locations as characters in the film including the Plaza Hotel where White and his gang would stay. While there are some unique wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations including some key suspenseful moments late in the film, much of Ferrara’s direction emphasizes more on characters and their settings. Even in the usage of medium shots and close-ups with some shots that involve multiple characters as it play into a world that is unruly and in total despair. Ferrara’s direction for the dramatic moments are simple as it include some long gazing shots of White looking at his city and hoping to make some changes along with a visit to a children’s hospital that is in dire need of repairs where he hopes to help that place and ensure that those kids will be fine. It’s among these small moments in the film that showcase White’s intentions despite his methods where he does kill off some rivals and such in very violent means.

The violence is intense as well as some confrontational scenes where a notable one where a few thugs try to rob White and end up working for him as they would prove their loyalty to him. While what White and his crew do other gang members were violent, it is nothing compared to what Gilley and Flanigan would do to try and stop him as they would prove to be even worse than what White did. Even in the film’s third act where the two cops would show how extreme they can be yet it would come at a great price where Ferrara shows the fallacy of not just White’s intentions but also the police and their inability to see the world and what it was becoming. Even as it play into White seeing that the idea of change is much harder to do when those in power try to be involved and not get any reward. Overall, Ferrara crafts an intoxicating yet intense film about a drug lord who uses his power to try and help the unfortunate in New York City.

Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of dreamy and low-key lights for many of the exterior scenes at night as well as a low-key yet sunny look for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Anthony Redman does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the action and some of the dark humor while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Alex Tavoularis, with set decorator Sonja Roth and art director Stephanie Ziemer, does fantastic work with the look of some of the interiors in the places including a few interiors in some of the places in the city.

Costume designer Carol Ramsey does terrific work with the costumes from the stylish black suit that White wears along with the street clothes that Jump wears. Sound editor Greg Sheldon does superb work with the sound in the way gunfire is presented as well as the sound of a few parties and other places in the city. The film’s music by Joe Delia is wonderful for its somber ambient-based synthesizer score that play into some of the film’s melancholic moments while the music soundtrack mainly features hip-hop tracks featuring cuts from Schooly-D and Party Posse as well as a jazz cut from Freddy Jackson.

The casting by Randy Sabusawa is terrific as it feature some notable small roles from Harold Perrineau as a young thug who robs White only to end up working for him, Frank Gio as the Italian crime boss Arty Clay, Ernest Abuba as a dealer named King Tito, Gerard Murphy as a young cop named Mulligan, Alonna Shaw as Mulligan’s bride, Ariane and Pete Hamill as themselves who are dinner guests at a restaurant where White visits them, Joey Chin as a triad leader in Larry Wong, Carrie Nygren as a lover of White in Melanie, Roger Guenveur Smith as a local politician, Theresa Randle as one of White’s female companions/henchwomen in Raye, Steve Buscemi as a drug tester in Test Tube, Freddy Jackson as himself performing for a benefit dinner, Giancarlo Esposito as a henchman in Lance, Janet Julian as White’s attorney/former lover in Jennifer, and Paul Calderon as a handler of White in Joey Dalesio who serves as a mediator between White and other dealers only to later put White into trouble.

Wesley Snipes and David Caruso are fantastic in their respective roles as the detectives Thomas Flanigan and Dennis Gilley as two young detectives who decide to take the law into their own hands with Flanigan having issues with White’s henchman Jump and Gilley taking the lead believing that White is disrespecting the law. Victor Argo is brilliant as Roy Bishop as a detective who is a more by-the-book figure that wants to bring White down the right way while trying to understand what White is trying to do as he would eventually face him in a way that he feels is ideal to him. Laurence Fishburne is excellent as White’s henchman Jimmy Jump as a man who does a lot of the killing but is also someone who understands what White is trying to do where he also wants to help out other people where Fishburne displays a lot of charm and energy into his performance. Finally, there’s Christopher Walken in a magnificent performance as Frank White as a drug lord who has been released from prison as he sees what his city has become as it’s a performance that has elements of charisma but also in some restraint as he tries to change the city and do good as it’s one of Walken’s great performances.

King of New York is a phenomenal film from Abel Ferrara that features a tremendous performance from Christopher Walken. Along with its ensemble cast, eerie visuals, study of law and order, and an exhilarating music soundtrack. It’s a film that doesn’t play into the many tropes expected in a crime drama as it’s more of a study of a man trying to use his knowledge of the criminal underworld and to create change in the hope that he can help the unfortunate in New York City. In the end, King of New York is a spectacular film from Abel Ferrara.

Abel Ferrara Films: (9 Lives of a Wet Pussy) – (The Driller Killer) – (Ms. 45) – (Fear City) – (The Gladiator (1986 TV film)) – (China Girl) – (The Loner) – (Cat Chaser) – (Bad Lieutenant) – (Body Snatchers (1993 film)) – (Dangerous Game) – (The Addiction (1995 film)) – (The Funeral (1996 film)) – (The Blackout (1997 film)) – (New Rose Hotel) – (‘R Xmas) – (Mary (2005 film)) – (Go Go Tales) – (Chelsea on the Rocks) – (Napoli, Napoli, Napoli) – (4:44 Last Day on Earth) – (Welcome to New York) – (Pasolini) – (Tomasso)

© thevoid99 2019

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Police Story 2



Directed and starring Jackie Chan and written by Chan and Edward Tang, Police Story 2 is the sequel to the 1985 film that has a Hong Kong detective demoted to traffic duty as he eventually goes rogue to go against a gang of serial bombers who is believed to be working for a drug lord’s henchman. The film has Chan reprise the role of “Kevin” Chan Ka-kui as he deals with his unorthodox methods in taking down criminals while trying to adjust to his new role as a traffic cop and his relationship with his girlfriend May as she is reprised by Maggie Cheung. Also starring Bill Tung, Charlie Cho, Lam Kwok-Hung, and Chor Yuen reprising his role as the drug lord Chu Tao. Police Story 2 is a sprawling and gripping film from Jackie Chan.

The is set months after the events of the first film in which Chan Ka-kui has amassed a lot of heavy damage to the places he’s in during his attempted captures of the drug lord Chu Tao as he is demoted to traffic duty. Yet, it’s a film that has him torn between being a cop but also being a good boyfriend to his longtime girlfriend May just as a gang of serial bombers are creating havoc around Hong Kong and extorting a group of rich businessman through threats. Even as Chan has to lead a surveillance team that forces him to break-up with May so he can try and prevent from other bombings from happening after he and May were fortunate to escape a bombing attempt. The film’s screenplay by Jackie Chan and Edward Tang mixes ideas of comedy, romance, drama, action, and suspense as it play into Chan Ka-kui’s struggle to be a good cop yet often gets himself into trouble whether he is targeted by Tao’s right-hand man John Ko (Charlie Cho) and his goons or through these mysterious bombers who are making threats and destroying places.

Notably in the film’s second act where Chan leads the surveillance team as they also record conversations from the corporate bosses who are being extorted. It serves as a break from the action and humor as it emphasizes on suspense with Chan taking the lead and allowing his team to be more involved. Yet, it also play into this sense of discord over social classes where the unveiling of the bombers come into play for its third act as well as why they’re so mysterious. Chan and Tang do manage to put in a lot of things in the script as it relates to the personal life of Chan and his relationship with May as she questions about whether he’s fully committed as he’s often tested by his duties and those trying to intimidate him.

Chan’s direction is definitely grand in term of the set pieces he created though the opening sequence involving these moving trucks is big but it’s really a set-up for what his character is doing right now as it’s a step down from the mayhem that he created in the previous film. Yet, it does have elements of comedy as it play into the sense of humility that Chan Ka-kui has to endure but it at least makes May happy that he’s not engaged in trouble for a while as Ko tries to intimidate him after Chan learns that Tao has been released from prison due to a terminal illness he is suffering from. Shot on location in Hong Kong, the film does use many of its locations not just as characters but also to play into this growing rest of uncertainty as it relates to the serial bombers and their actions. The usage of the wide and medium shots help capture the scope of the locations as well as in some of the film’s action set pieces that include a fight in a playground between Chan and Ko’s gang. Serving as the film’s action director/choreographer, Chan ensures that there is a rhythm to the stunts and action that include a scene of three female cops interrogating the explosives supplier.

Chan’s approach to the comedy is partially physical but it also play into some elaborate set pieces where an extremely upset May chases Chan to the men’s locker room and shower as he tries to hide from her. Chan’s approach to creating set pieces that include the film’s third act where the identity of the bombers and its creator named Dummy (Benny Lai) who is also a dangerous fighter. The sequence that includes a chase sequence and Chan’s character jumping on a truck and then onto a bus and then jump into a glass pane as it is told through a tracking wide shot showcase the intricate attention to detail he puts into the stunt work. Even in the film’s climatic showdown against the bombers as the attention to detail in the fighting and in the set pieces add to the stakes of what is happening as well as providing a few comical moments in that scene. Overall, Chan crafts a riveting yet exhilarating film about a cop trying to stop a group of serial bombers from wreaking havoc in Hong Kong.

Cinematographers Cheung Yiu-Jo and Lee Yau-Tong do excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its straightforward look for many of the daytime exterior and interior scenes with some stylish lighting for some scenes set at night including the playground fight scene. Editors Peter Cheung Yui-Chung, Keung Chuen-Tak, and Sek Chi-Kong do amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into the action and humor that include some fluid cutting in some of the fighting with a lot of emphasis on showing what is going on. Production designer Oliver Wong does brilliant work with the design of the police station interiors including the locker room/shower as well as the interiors of the factory where the bombers hide out in the film’s third act. Costume designer Shirley Chan does fantastic work with the costumes from some of the casual clothes Chan and other characters wear to the stylish clothes that some of his members of his surveillance team wear to play undercover.

The special effects work of Ng Kwok-Wa is terrific for the creation of some of the set pieces including the explosives that are created including some big ones in a couple of key scenes. Sound recordist Shao Lung Chou and mixer John Ross do superb work with the sound in capturing some of the sound in some of the film’s locations as well as the way fists and kicks are presented. The film’s music by Michael Lai is incredible for its electronic-based score as it has some bombastic pieces for the action along with some low-key and somber pieces for the drama while the theme song with lyrics by James Wong is once again sung by Chan as it play into his character’s adventures.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Isabella Wong as the secretary to Fung in Miss Wong, Shan Kwan as a corporate president leader in Fung, the quartet of Crystal Kwok, Anglie Leung Wan-Yui, Ann Mui, and Candice Tai as female undercover police officers who interrogate the explosives supplier, John Cheung as the explosives supplier known as Polar Bear, Andy Tai Chi-Wai as one of the bombers, and Benny Lai as the deaf explosive maker who is also a fierce fighter. Charlie Cho and Chor Yuen are superb in their respective roles as the thug John Ko and the crime boss Chu Tao with the former trying to make Chan’s life a living hell through intimidation while the latter is dying through an illness where he orders Ko to harass Chan. Lam Kwok-Hung is fantastic as Superintendent Raymond Li as Chan’s station boss who deals with some of the chaos as he eventually reinstate Chan to detective work while dealing with other superiors. Bill Tung is excellent as Inspector “Uncle Bill” Wong as a superior officer who often serves as mediator between Li and Chan while embarking on a comical moment in relation to bad food he ate.

Maggie Cheung is amazing as May as Chan’s longtime girlfriend who has to endure his duties while their planned vacation to Bali is cancelled where Cheung displays a lot of humor in her anger while also doing some serious stunts as it relates to the film’s climatic factory sequence as it is one of Cheung’s finest performances. Finally, there’s Jackie Chan in a phenomenal performance as Chan “Kevin” Ka-kui as a detective who is demoted to traffic duty until a series of events has him reinstated to detective as Chan displays that sense of determination in his job but also cope with the fact that is devotion to his work is troubling his relationship with May where Chan displays humor and humility into his performance while also doing some crazy stunts in some of the action as it’s another quintessential performance from Chan.

Police Story 2 is a sensational film from Jackie Chan that features an incredible supporting performance from Maggie Cheung. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling set pieces, high-octane action, intense stunt work, a riveting music soundtrack, and its balance to blend all sorts of genres and tones into one film. It’s a film that does more than just be an action-suspense-comedy but also serves as a film that does a lot more than just be entertaining while being a study of what a cop tries to do on and off duty. In the end, Police Story 2 is a spectacular film from Jackie Chan.

Jackie Chan Films: (The Fearless Hyena) – (The Young Master) – (Dragon Lord) – (Project A) – Police Story - (Armour of God) – (Project A Part II) – (Miracles (1988 film)) – (Armour of God II: Operation Condor) – (Drunken Master) – (Who Am I?) – (Jackie Chan: My Stunts) – (1911) – (CZ12)

Related: (Supercop) – (Once A Cop) – (Crime Story) – (Police Story 4: First Strike) – (New Police Story) – (Police Story 2013)

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Break-Ups




For the 38th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the subject of break-ups. Films that explore couples just calling it quits as it’s something that is seen very often as it play into relationships that just fizzled out. Here are my three picks:

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind



Michel Gondry’s strange romantic sci-fi comedy from a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman is definitely one of the best films of the 2000s. It revolves around a man who had just broken up with his girlfriend as he learns she erased all of her memories of him as he decides to do the same but it eventually leads to problems. It’s a film that explore a relationship and how much that relationship meant to someone and some of the flaws of these individuals throughout the course of the film as they wondered if erasing memories of former spouses was the right thing to do.

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall



From Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel is a great break-up comedy where a TV show music composer whose relationship with the star of that same TV show is shattered when she decides to leave him for a rock star and he wallows in his misery. Wanting to recover from the break-up, he goes to Hawaii only to find that his ex-girlfriend is there with her new rock star boyfriend and he gets more miserable only to get sympathy and a new lease on life from the lively hotel concierge and other hotel staff members including Paul Rudd as a stoner surf instructor.

3. (500) Days of Summer



A film that explores a relationship that lasted 500 days and how it all fell apart as it is told in non-linear narrative. It’s a unique take of the romantic-comedy as its opening sequence involves Chloe Grace Moretz riding her bike to the city to find her older brother breaking dishes as he had just broken up with his girlfriend. It’s a film that play into the many ups and downs of a relationship yet it explore how it can all fall apart and the harsh realities of love. Most notably the reality/expectations sequence of what a man is hoping to have but is also dealing with what is really happening as it is a real punch to the gut.

© thevoid99 2019

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mysterious Object at Noon




Directed, shot, and co-edited by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Mysterious Object at Noon is an experimental documentary film about a group of people being interviewed as part of a party game with the usage of the exquisite corpse concept with individuals taking part of the game. It’s a documentary film that explore what people can come up with this game as the story becomes more surreal as it goes on as does the players involved in the story as they try to act it out. The result is a mesmerizing and evocative film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

The film that was shot in black-and-white and in the span of nearly 2 years in 35mm and 16mm film stock play into a director asking ordinary people in Thailand a story involving a crippled young boy, his teacher, and a mysterious object that came out of the teacher in the form of another boy. All played through the party game concept of the exquisite corpse, various people would add ideas to the story as it gets weirder and more surreal as it goes on not just blurring the ideas of reality and fiction but also the people involved acting out in the story. Told in a documentary style, Apichatpong Weerasethakul creates a film that does blur the idea of what is fiction and what is reality while allowing those he encounter to bring ideas to the story where the mysterious object would become the teacher and then go on a series of adventures where things get weirder.

With the aid of co-cinematographers Prasong Klimborron and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Weerasethakul would shoot everything in black-and-white as there’s an element of grain in the photography while Weerasethakul doesn’t dwell too much into shooting everything in hand-held cameras where he would go for a dolly tracking shot or to create a simple composition. Weerasethakul and co-editor Mingmongkol Sonakul would create sequences that blur the idea of reality and fantasy such as a sequence where a traditional Thai dance troupe is telling the story that is intercut with actors playing out the role in another scene as it add to the film’s offbeat narrative. The sound work of Sirote Tulsook Paisit is superb in gathering the audio from the various people Weerasethakul would meet and encounter though Weerasethakul doesn’t put himself on camera. It all play into the art of storytelling though Weerasethakul’s method can be confusing at times in what is going on. Still, Weerasethakul does maintain a tone that is simple as well as showcase what ordinary people can bring to a strange story based on a concept.

Mysterious Object at Noon is an incredible film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul. It’s a strange yet fascinating hybrid of documentary and fiction that is told in a simplistic yet offbeat style that explores the art of storytelling. It is also a film that is daring in its approach to being experimental as well as see how a story can be created out of a few ideas. In the end, Mysterious Object at Noon is a sensational film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Films: (Blissfully Yours) – (The Adventure of Iron Pussy) – (Tropical Malady) – (Syndromes and a Century) – Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - (Mekong Hotel) – (Cemetery of Splendour) – (Ten Years Thailand) – (Memoria)

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Non-English Language Movies




For the 37th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the subject of non-English language films as it’s a subject discussed many times in this series. Yet, I’m going to go into a different route considering there aren’t a lot of women filmmakers explored as much as I’m going with a theme within a theme in this as here are my three picks:

1. Hotel Monterey



Chantal Akerman’s documentary about a hotel in New York City where many of its inhabitants are an odd assortment of people. A film that mixes the documentary style with other forms of experimental filmmaking, Akerman’s film displays the idea of how to tell a story without certain tricks such as sound while keeping the camera gazing through various long shots to explore this hotel that was once unique for its time in the 1970s.

2. The Ascent



The second of two films that Larisa Shepitko made in her lifetime, this World War II film set in the snowy woods of Belarus involving two soldiers split for their regiment as they struggle to get back with them as well as survive the unforgiving cold weather. It’s a strange war film that is more about many of its fallacies as these two men would encounter a woman with three children and German soldiers as the latter are also struggling with their surroundings as well as their own sense of faith about everything they’re doing in this war.

3. La Cienaga



Lucrecia Martel’s 2001 feature-length debut is part of a thematic trilogy set in the Salta area of Argentina explores the life of an upper-class family living in their country home with various relatives as it would lead to chaos. It’s a film that doesn’t have much plot as it’s more about a family trying to deal with boredom as well as growing tension among relatives over class and what is important in life. It is told in a very minimalist yet effective style that makes a great case for why Martel is one of the best filmmakers working today.

© thevoid99 2019

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Liv & Ingmar




Directed by Dheeraj Akolar and written by Akolar and Ragnhild Lund, Liv & Ingmar is a film about the collaboration and relationship between actress Liv Ullmann and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman that lasted for 42 years. The film is a documentary about one of the most revered collaborations between filmmaker and actor as well as the relationship they had when they’re not making films. The result is a fascinating film from Dheeraj Akolar on one of cinema’s great collaborative relationships.

Considered one of the finest actor/director collaborations, Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann and Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman had made a total of 10 films together from 1966’s Persona to 2003’s Saraband along with two films Ullmann had directed with scripts written by Bergman. The two also had a personal relationship that went on for 42 years where five of those years from 1965 to 1970 lead to an intimate one that would include the addition of a daughter in writer Linn Ullmann. The film is about that relationship through good and bad times with Liv Ullmann talking about her time with Bergman from the moment they met to his final days towards his death on July 30, 2007. While the film focuses mainly on their personal relationship rather than their collaboration which is interesting but it tends to meander as it doesn’t dwell more on their work together on a film set.

Dheeraj Akolar’s direction is largely straightforward in the way he films Ullmann discussing her time with Bergman as well as the films they made where it’s broken into chapters by certain themes of their relationship and its evolution. Even as Ullmann travels to Faro Island where Bergman lived for much of his life with some insight about his marriage at the time they had met as she didn’t say anything about his wife at the time feeling it would be disrespectful. With the help of cinematographer Hallvard Braein, Akolar would film many of those locations as well as Ullmann’s native home country of Norway as it would also feature drawings that Bergman made along with shots of letters Bergman wrote with Samuel Froler providing the voice of Bergman for those letters.

Akolar would capture the atmosphere of some of those locations with the aid of sound designers Amrit Pritam Dutta and Resul Pookutty along with the sound of Bergman’s voice and some of Ullmann’s narration while editor Tushar Ghogale would compile a lot of archival and rare footage to play into Ullmann’s rise to stardom including her brief time in Hollywood during the mid-to-late 1970s. Even the behind-the-scenes footage of the films that Ullmann and Bergman did together along with clips from those films appear. Accompanying some of the scenes and interviews feature a piano score music by Stefan Nilsson who provides a somber tone to the piano as it play into some of the drama that occurred in Ullmann’s relationship with Bergman but also in those final years in how close they were.

Liv & Ingmar is a stellar film from Dheeraj Akolar. While it’s a documentary that fans of Ingmar Bergman’s work would be interested in, it is flawed due to its emphasis on Bergman’s personal life with Liv Ullmann rather than their filmmaking collaboration. Still, it does provide some insight into Bergman as an artist as well as why Ullmann was considered one of his great collaborators. In the end, Liv & Ingmar is a terrific film from Dheeraj Akolar.

Related: Bergman Island

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Aquaman




Based on the DC Comics series by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger, Aquaman is the story of a half-human, half-Atlantean who reluctantly goes into the underwater world of Atlantis to stop his younger half-brother from uniting the seven kingdoms to wage war against the surface world. Directed by James Wan and screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall from a story by Wan, Beall, and Geoff Johns, the film is a part-origin story and an adventure story where Arthur Curry deals with his mother’s disappearance and the destiny he has to take on to save the world from destruction as he is played by Jason Momoa. Also starring Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Temeura Morrison, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna. Aquaman is a grand and exhilarating film from James Wan.

Set several months after a confrontation with an evil force where he is part of the Justice League, the film is about Arthur Curry/Aquaman dealing with his past but also a new threat in the former of his younger half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) who wants to wage war on the surface world and become king of Atlantis. It’s a film that has a simple premise that is expected with films about superheroes but it’s more of a study of a man reluctant to take on what is rightfully is as he also deals with the fact that he’s half-human and it lead to the disappearance and death of his mother Queen Atlanna. The film’s screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall opens with how Atlanna met lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temeura Morrison) in 1985 and fell in love that lead to the conception of Arthur as their tranquil life was disrupted by Atlantan forces who want Atlanna to return as she reluctantly leaves Thomas and Arthur to protect them.

The script would showcase some flashbacks of Arthur growing up to understand his powers to communicate with aquatic creatures but also be trained by Atlanna’s advisor Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe) who would teach Arthur many things as he would later become Orm’s advisor only to get uneasy about Orm’s ambition as he chooses to help Arthur in secrecy. Also helping Curry with this growing conflict is Princess Mera of Xebel (Amber Heard) whose father King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) had aligned himself with Orm after an attack from a Russian submarine. Yet, Orm has also made a secret alliance with a pirate in David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to set-up the attack as he wants to find Arthur following a confrontation at a submarine that lead to the death of Kane’s father Jesse (Michael Beach) during an attempted hijack on that sub. Though the script does have a few clunky moments in the dialogue, it does succeed in establishing the characters and the stakes with the first act being about Orm’s desire to attack and Arthur reluctantly trying to stop him while its second act is about their first duel that nearly kills Arthur and his escape with Mera as they try to find an ancient artifact that relates to a trident that belonged to Atlantis’ true king in Atlan as the person who holds it is Atlantis’ true heir.

James Wan’s direction is definitely grand in terms of the visual scope he presents of the underwater world that is Atlantis but also ground it with some realism for some scenes on the surface. Shot largely in Australia and at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia with additional locations shot in parts of Italy, Canada, and Morocco, Wan does create a world that is vast not just above the sea but also under the sea. Particularly on the latter as the world of Atlantis is enchanting as well as wondrous while it also feature an array of beings, creatures, and human-like figures known as Atlanteans who live and breathe underwater while they can converse underwater as they also have powers. Yet, Wan also showcases the sense of prejudice towards Arthur yet there are a few that are willing to give him a chance despite their issues with civilization at the surface. Wan’s usage of the wide shots in how he presents Atlantis as well as the film’s climatic battle scene definitely capture a lot of coverage and establishes it in what is going on.

Wan’s direction also knows when to break away from the action in favor of character development and interaction that include scenes of Arthur and Mera on Earth traveling through the Sahara and later going to Sicily to find clues of the trident’s whereabouts. Wan keeps things smooth and help bring some nuances to the story including Arthur and Mera’s growing relationship while they have to fight off Orm’s personal guards, sea creatures, and David Kane wearing a suit as he’s called Black Manta. Wan’s approach to action and suspense add to the stakes that occur including the sequence in the third act where Arthur and Mera face off against monsters in this wormhole known as the Trench that leads to a mysterious land where Atlan’s trident is located. Wan does allow shots to linger for a bit including a few fights including Atlanna’s fights against a royal guard early in the film as it is shot in one entire take with tracking shots and other camera effects. The film’s climatic battle sequence display an air of grandeur and importance where Wan does establish what is going on as well as what is at stake as it play into Arthur stepping into his role as King of Atlantis. Overall, Wan crafts an intoxicating yet exhilarating film about half-man, half-Atlantean who comes to term with who he is and his destiny.

Cinematographer Don Burgess does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its colorful and vibrant look for many of the exterior scenes shot in the day in some of the film’s different locations along with the usage of low-key and blue-green colors for some of the scenes under the sea. Editor Kirk Morri does nice work with the editing as it does play into conventional fast-cutting with some of the action but does stray from chaotic editing to establish what is happening as it also include some stylish cuts for the humorous moments in the film. Production designer Bill Brezki, with set decorators Danielle Berman and Beverley Dunn plus supervising art director Richard Hobbs, does amazing work with the look of Atlantis as well as the home of Thomas Curry, the bar Arthur and Thomas go to, the palace in the Sahara, and other locations including some in Sicily. Costume designer Kym Barrett does fantastic work with the suit that Mera wears under the sea as well as the clothes that other Atlanteans wear along with the more casual look of Arthur and the eventual suit that he would wear in its third act.

Hair/makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt and special makeup effects/creature designer Justin Raleigh do brilliant work with the look of some of the characters as well as how hair moves underwater as it’s a highlight of the film. Special effects supervisors Mark R. Byers and Brian Cox, plus visual effects supervisors Tim Alexander, Jay Barton, Bryan Hirota, Sebastian Moreau, David Nelson, Craig Wentworth, and Jeff White, do incredible work with the visual effects as it is a major highlight of the film with the design of Atlantis, the creatures of Atlantis, and some of the underwater effects as they’re top notch and they have this air of grandeur that the film needed. Sound designers Harry Cohen, Eliot Connors, Joe Dzuban, and Stephen P. Robinson, along with sound editor Peter Brown, do superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations as well the sound effects of some of the Atlantean weapons that are used.

The film’s music by Rupert Gregson-Williams is wonderful for its mixture of bombastic orchestral score with some electronic flourishes as it help play into the massive scope of the film as well as some soaring pieces with lush string arrangements while music supervisor Michelle Silverman creates a fun soundtrack that features an original piece by Skylar Grey as well as some inspired usage of music from Roy Orbison and Depeche Mode though the track from Pitbull with Rhea is just dumb.

The casting by Anne McCarthy and Kellie Roy is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Andrew Crawford providing the motion capture performances of the Brine King and King Richou of the Fisherman with John Rhys-Davies and Djimon Hounsou respectively providing the voices, Leigh Whannell as a cargo pilot, Julie Andrews as the voice of a mysterious creature guarding King Atlan’s trident, Ludi Lin as Atlantis’ front-line army commander Captain Murk, Graham McTavish as King Atlan via flashbacks, and Randall Park in a small performance as the marine biologist Dr. Stephen Shin who is trying to prove to everyone that Atlantis is real. In the roles of the young Arthur, Tainu and Tamor Kirkwood as the three-year old Arthur, Kaan Guldur as the nine-year old Arthur, Otis Dhanji as the 13-year old Arthur, and Kekoa Kekumano as the 16-year old Arthur are terrific in displaying the character’s growth and understanding of his powers through Vulko’s guidance. Michael Beach is superb as David’s father Jesse Kane as a leader of pirates who would confront Arthur only to be bested and urge his son to avenge him.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is fantastic as David Kane/Black Manta as a pirate who seeks to find and kill Arthur in an act of revenge while conspiring with Orm to help start a war with the surface people in exchange for weapons to hunt Arthur. Dolph Lundgren is excellent as King Nereus of the Xebel tribe who is Mera’s father as he also helps Orm with an upcoming war unaware of the truth of Orm’s intentions. Temeura Morrison is brilliant as Thomas Curry as a lighthouse keeper who meets and fall for Atlanna as he is also someone who is aware of his son’s gifts and powers but also knows about the danger that his son will face. Nicole Kidman is amazing in her small role as Queen Atlanna as a descendant of King Atlan who meets and falls for Thomas Curry as she reluctantly leaves Thomas and Arthur only to be punished for her actions leading to her possible execution. Willem Dafoe is remarkable as Nuidis Vulko as Atlanna’s former advisor who would teach Arthur about his powers while also being a reluctant advisor to Orm as he becomes suspicious of Orm’s intentions leading him to help Arthur.

Amber Heard is incredible as Mera as King Nereus’ daughter with telepathic and hydrokinetic powers that helps Arthur in his journey as she is also someone who knows a lot about the underwater world but not much about the surface as she does provide some funny moments. Patrick Wilson is great as Orm as Arthur’s younger half-brother who is the king of Atlantis who hopes to unite the seven kingdoms but also wants to start a war on the surface world as he’s not really an antagonist but someone who despises Arthur for what happened to their mother. Finally, there’s Jason Momoa in a phenomenal performance as Arthur Curry/Aquaman as a half-man, half-Atlantean who possesses some incredible powers to converse with sea creatures as well as being strong but he’s also someone that isn’t sure about ruling Atlantis knowing about its prejudices where Momoa displays some humor and charm but also a weariness as someone who is grounded and knows how to do the right thing as it’s a true breakout performance for Momoa.

Aquaman is a spectacular film from James Wan that features an incredible performance from Jason Momoa in the titular role. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visual effects, bombastic music score, and story of identity and family, it’s a blockbuster superhero film manages to be so much more as well as be adventurous and fun. Even as it explores a man coming to terms with who he is but also the role he chooses for an entire world. In the end, Aquaman is a sensational film from James Wan.

James Wan Films: (Saw) – (Dead Silence) – (Death Sentence) – (Insidious) – (The Conjuring) – (Insidious: Chapter 2) – (Furious 7) – (The Conjuring 2)

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - (Shazam!) – (Birds of Prey) – (Wonder Woman 1984)

© thevoid99 2019